Monday, March 31, 2008

Prostitution, bankers, bail-outs and advertising

Trading on America's Puritanical Streak by Martha Nussbaum

The debate on prostitution is over. To paraphrase Bill Hicks, if you still think prostitution is morally wrong, I suggest taking a brief look around the world in which we live, and shutting your fucking mouth. Period. Sorry to be so blunt, but to waste another couple of keystrokes on this utterly concluded debate, this non-issue for the rational, would be an unconscionable waste of some .01 calories of energy.

The New Brahmins by Chan Akya

I could not disagree more with Mr. Akya's ideology, but he at least is correct about the danger of government bailouts directed only to aid the world's bankers. But what I really love about Mr. Akya are his frequent bouts of unintentional comedic writing.

Mr. Akya writes, in an attempted refutation of a reader's call for the world to adopt the Scandinavian market socialist model: "[t]hus, people's natural tendency to grow and become richer was sacrificed at the altar of this demon called market socialism. The net result is that Scandinavia boasts the highest incidence of suicides in the Western world." People's natural tendency to grow has certainly not been sacrificed in Scandinavia; people are quite a bit taller on average there than in just about any other region in the world. What remains is Mr. Akya's assertion that the Satanic ritual sacrifice of "people's natural tendency to ... become richer," in the name of the demon market socialism, led to Scandinavia's high suicide rate. (The plus side of this Faustian bargain must have been happiness; Scandinavians report the highest well-being of any people in the world.)
I would have to ask demonologist Akya precisely which evil spirit has led to Belgium, Russia, China, Japan and Korea's (among many others) higher suicide rates? Is is it the trampling of market socialism's hooved feet that has awarded the honor of 'highest suicide rate in the world' (148 per 100,000) upon downtrodden young southern Indian women?

Preposterous! Displaying a sort of collective Stockholm Syndrome, many residents of formerly colonized countries idealize and glorify their former colonizers. I would advise Mr. Akya to give up his crush on Anglo-Saxon economics.

Bernanke's Next Big Bail Out Plan by Mike Whitney

Whitney's economic reports on Counterpunch tend to be a bit on the alarmist side. (Funnily enough, they have so far tended to be more accurate then, obviously, all of the economic news on cable.) This article details rumors of a bailout plan in the works that would have the Fed buying up hundreds of billions of dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities. (I would write, "toxic mortgage-backed securities", but I think that would be a bit redundant nowadays.)

May the world be so lucky! Dollar-holding central banks and rich investors throughout the world need a kick in the rear to end the dollar's key currency status. This would be just such a kick...

Markets' weak spot is bad ad vice by Robert Skidelsky

There is a slow trickle of capitalists - in ideology if not necessarily in economic position - who have come to realize that their beloved system is in crisis. This article suggests that regulating advertisements, i.e., commercial propaganda, is the way to go to restore(?) health to the system. I, for one, am all for it. A key component of capitalist apologetics is the assumption that "perfect information" (which Joseph Stiglitz, among others, has demolished) obtains in a free market economy. A more realistic assumption would be perfect disinformation. Modern advertising uses the same psychological techniques as political propaganda, only the techniques have been refined far beyond anything recognizable from the golden age of political propaganda, the World War II-era. Today's commercial propaganda is devoted to ensuring that consumers do not have perfect, imperfect, or pretty much any kind of accurate information about the advertised product. Commercial propaganda aims to mislead, to convince, for example, that Budweiser is an expertly-crafted beer that makes its drinker sexier - disinformation - rather than providing accurate information: Bud is nearly tasteless swill made mostly from broken leftover rice because it is cheaper than barley, and the money saved in production costs can be poured into advertising.

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